Solid Waste & Transfer Stations


Several communities in New York City (most notably North Brooklyn, the South Bronx, Sunset Park and SE Queens) are ringed by heavy manufacturing zones along their waterfronts or have mixed-use zones within their borders. These areas have become saturated with privately owned and operated waste transfer stations that handle commercial waste from the city’s hotels, offices and restaurants. The transfer stations, where waste is shifted from collection vehicles to long haul trucks, bring thousands of heavy diesel trucks through these communities each day, communities with some of the highest asthma rates in the country. Since the closing of the Fresh Kills landfill (which re-routed most of NYC’s residential waste to these same communities), over 75% of the City’s entire solid waste stream is now processed in a handful of EJ communities throughout the City.

NYC-EJA led efforts for comprehensive policy reforms to address solid waste and the impacts of dozens of waste transfer stations on a handful of low-income communities of color throughout New York City. To that end, NYC-EJA and NY Lawyers for the Public Interest co-founded and helped staff the Organization of Waterfront Neighborhoods (OWN) in 1996. For nearly twenty years, NYC-EJA, OWN and NYLPI have fought for a more equitable waste management system. Beginning in 2001, the coalitions worked closely with the Bloomberg Administration and City Council to develop the landmark 20-year Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) in 2006, which relied for the first time on principles of environmental justice and borough equity. The SWMP also committed to broadened recycling and waste reduction policies. (To learn more, please read Accomplishments column.)

"Waste-To-Energy" Incineration

In 2012, when the Bloomberg Administration issued an RFP for "waste-to-energy" incineration, NYC-EJA, our members and allies, launched an advocacy campaign to educate government officials, the media and general public, about the risks associated with these polluting technologies -- which can also undermine waste reduction and recycling initiatives. The Bloomberg Administration ultimately abandoned the proposal.

Over the years, NYC-EJA’s efforts with NYLPI & OWN defeated the siting of several regional mega-waste transfer stations proposed for Red Hook, Williamsburg and the South Bronx, and inspired passage of several laws, including the implementation of Local Law 40 (siting regulations for waste transfer stations) and new operational regulations for transfer stations. As a result, our campaign altered an essential City service and the largest waste management system of any U.S. city.

Transform Don’t Trash: Reforming Commercial Waste

In October 2013, the Transform Don't Trash NYC coalition officially debuted, launching our campaign and releasing a report that outlined how the commercial waste industry is highly polluting, inefficient, costly to the City, disproportionately burdensome on low-income communities and communities of color, and dangerous and exploitative for workers. Transform Don't Trash marks the first time that a broad-based labor, environmental justice and community coalition has united around recommendations to improve commercial solid waste management in New York City.

For decades, environmental justice advocates and community activists had to soldier on alone in the Garbage Wars of NYC, struggling against deeply resourced and powerful communities stubbornly clinging to an unjust status quo. No longer. The partnership between environmental justice advocates and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Joint Council 16 and Locals 813 & 831, NYC Central Labor Council, and SEIU 32BJ (as well as our allies NY Lawyers for the Public Interest, ALIGN, and American Lung Association of NY) signals a quantum shift in the City's solid waste debate.

Marine Transfer Stations

NYC-EJA continues to fight for full implementation of the SWMP, including the construction of the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station, a contentious and long drawn-out process. Wealthy Upper East Side real estate interests are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund opposition to the E. 91st Street Marine Transfer Station (MTS). Despite this, construction is underway, promising the beginning of waste equity among the boroughs.

Trash Cap (Intro 495)

Full implementation of the SWMP must include a strategy for reducing the actual garbage handled in overburdened communities in order to ensure borough equity. Passing the “Trash Cap” (Intro 495) bill in NYC Council will provide long overdue relief for communities that handle a disproportionate amount of the City’s waste. It will also ensure that no other community is mistreated like this in the future: provisions will not allow the City to issue new permit capacity in any Community District with more than 5% of the City’s waste permit capacity.

Reports and presentations

Clearing the Air: How Reforming the Public Waste Sector Can Address Air Quality Issues in Environmental Justice Communities

Additional resources 

NY Times, Mayoral Candidates Wrestle Over Waste Removal

NY Times, In Fight Against Trash Station, Upper East Side Cites Injustice

NY Daily News Editorial, GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT

NY Times Editorial, A Fair Way to Handle Trash

NY Post Editorial, Chris & Billy’s trash talk

Barge NYC’s Garbage

For more information read, “Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice,” by Julie Sze (2006); “We Won’t Move: Community Planning in The Real Estate Capital of the World,” by Tom Angotti (2008); and “The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs,” by Roberta Brandes Gratz (2010).

Residents Rally Against Plan To Reopen Garbage Transfer Station In NYC

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — The City Council is set to approve a $66 billion budget Wednesday, averting firehouse closings and teacher layoffs, but some of the funds are earmarked for re-opening a garbage transfer station in a residential Manhattan neighborhood, Jay Dow reports.

Fight Over Garbage Transfer Stations

From the Editor: Say No to an Incinerator

Trash and Burn

Gathering on Upper East Side to Oppose Garbage Station

Gonzalez Heralds Victory on Waste Management Fight

Bloomberg’s Environmental Plan Offers Lots of Parts, Little Controversy

City’s Talking Trash to Generate Energy






Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP): Long championed by NYC-EJA and sister coalition OWN, the 20-year Solid Waste Management Plan (or SWMP) adopted by Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council in 2006 was an innovative plan that relied for the first time on principles of environmental justice and borough equity. At its heart, the SWMP is a sweeping overhaul of the City’s waste export system that substitutes a polluting truck-based system confined to a handful of overburdened communities to a water-based, less polluting barge system that relies on a network of equitably sited, City-owned marine and rail transfer stations.

Clean Carting Trucks Bill: At the invitation of the City Council, NYC-EJA provided advice for the Clean Carting Trucks Bill,Intro. 1160A: Over 8,000 heavy-duty diesel trucks - accounting for 20% of all particulate mater (PM) generated by heavy duty trucks in NYC - collect millions of tons of commercial waste annually. Adopted by the City Council on December 19th 2013, Intro 1160A seeks to ensure that by 2020, all licensed waste haulers use only trucks that meet the U.S. EPA´s 2007 emissions standards for diesel trucks, or are fitted with the best available retrofit technology.

NYC-EJA in the News

StreetsBlog NYC: Private Trash Haulers Are a Street Safety Menace — It’s Time for Carting Route Reforms (7/27/17)

Politico NY: Industry-backed foam recycling bill loses Council sponsors as fight intensifies (6/14/17)

Times Union: JCOPE settlement expected to reveal Glenwood behind $690k (5/23/17)

Queens Chronicle: March seeks worker, environmental rights (3/2/17)

Crain's NY: For neighborhoods overburdened by trash, no time to waste (4/20/17)

Queens Press: Jamaica Residents Protest Foul-Smelling Waste Plant (3/3/17)

Politico: City Council seeks to overhaul city Fair Share policies (2/27/17)

WPIX 11: Advocates push for Environmental Justice (2/25/17)

NY1: Residents Hold "Pray-in" to Protest Waste Sites in Southeast Queens (2/25/17)

Mott Haven Herald: From the editor: Bring Less Garbage to the South Bronx (1/3/17)

Mott Haven Herald: Bronxites to city: Slash our trash (1/2/17)

Gotham Gazette: Fair Share: Design Flaws, Flashpoints & Possible Updates (11/21/16)

Waste360: DSNY Study Recommends Establishing Commercial Waste Collection Zones in NYC (8/17/16)

Politico: In a major shift, city to launch zoned-collection system for private carting industry (8/16/16)

CityLab: Free Shopping Bags Have Already Cost the Poor Too Much (5/5/16)

NY Daily News: Brooklyn residents hope to shut down waste transfer station, claim odors and fumes are sickening (12/2/15)

Metro: North Brooklyn residents mobilize against community's waste station (12/01/15)

Bedford and Bowery: This Anti-Garbage Meeting in Bushwick Got Pretty Steamy (12/01/15)

City & State: Talking Up Trash Zones: Union, recycling advocates promote plan to revamp city’s sanitation setup (10/23/15)

News 12 Brooklyn: New map shows toxic spill areas in Brooklyn (4/3/15)

NY Environment: The Bronx is Breathing (2/20/15)

City Limits: Trash Fight is Sequel to Bloomberg Battle (10/21/14)

NY Environment: North Brooklyn: Fighting for Fairness in NYC's Trash War (10/16/14)

City Journal: Manhattan Transfer New York's waste-management plan is turning into a battle of the boroughs (6/4/14)

NY Environment Report: Neighborhoods Burdened by Processing City's Trash Look to New Sanitation Commissioner (4/15/14)

Village Voice: What We Talk About When Quinn Talks About "Environmental Racism" (6/3/13)

Capital New York: Now, Thompson raises off Quinn's 'environmental racism' comment (6/3/13)

Capital New York: On Delicate Issues, Bill Thompson Doesn't Presume to be Specific (6/3/13)

NY Daily News: Trash Fight Rages On Between Christine Quinn, Bill Thompson (6/3/13)

NY Post: Bill Thompson offended by 'environmental racism' charge he claims was made by Christine Quinn (6/1/13)

Wall Street Journal: Thompson, Quinn Recycle Trash Fight (5/31/13)

City Limits: Fiscal Woes, Long-Held Fears Spur Waste-to-Energy Debate (10/10/12)